The Tea Party v. the United Nations

by Julian Ku

The U.N. is an amorphous, complex organization with many autonomous parts, as commenters on my post below have noted.  This means that when one autonomous part of the U.N. does something stupid or bad, it is not always fair to attribute that to the organization as a whole, or the Secretariat.  On the other hand, part of what gives the U.N. its power and influence is the idea that it is a single organization representing the international community.  So expect the U.N., and its funding from the U.S., to undergo some severe grilling by the new Republican majority of the U.S. House of Representatives, even if such grilling is not entirely fair.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he will try to blunt a threat by Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives to withhold financial support for the world body by meeting with them to defend his record.

Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, new head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, last July called the UN a “stew of corruption, mismanagement and negligence.”

Ros-Lehtinen is holding a hearing featuring UN critics on Jan. 25. She plans legislation to increase congressional scrutiny and to make the U.S. financial commitment voluntary, rather than an annual amount stipulated by a formula based on national economic output.

One interesting legal question worth thinking about as this funding fight moves forward. What exactly does it mean to make the U.S. financial commitment voluntary? Would it require withdrawing from prior U.S. commitments? Were those treaty-based commitments or simply sole executive agreements?  I don’t doubt that the U.S. Congress has the power to withhold the U.S. contribution, but I don’t think it has the power to override an international agreement of the U.S. on the international plane.  More likely, Congress is going to pressure the U.S. State Department to renegotiate the formula for annual contributions. This makes a lot of sense, actually, and will hopefully be a positive outcomeof what is likely to be an ugly few months for the U.N. on Capital Hill.

Comments are closed.